With the league offices closing for today, the second Tuesday after the 2017 NFL Draft, it also closes out the addition of compensatory free agents (CFAs) into the formula for the 2018 NFL Draft. With only CFA subtractions now possible due to cuts or too low of a salary, it’s time to take a look at the list that’s emerged.
|Team||Round||Compensated Free Agent||APY|
|Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded|
The quality of 2018 compensatory picks looks to be reduced compared to 2017. There were eleven 3rd round picks and six 4th round picks awarded in 2017. For 2018, OTC’s formula is currently projecting six 3rd round picks and four 4th round picks. The reason why is this year, teams were more willing to cancel out high CFAs last offseason as opposed to this time around. Last year, Denver was the only team to cancel out a 3rd round comp pick (in a move they may not have fully intended to do), and only three 4th round comp picks were canceled out. This year, six teams elected to cancel out seven possible 3rd round comp picks alone: Buffalo (Stephon Gilmore), New England (Logan Ryan), Washington (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon), Detroit (Riley Reiff), Minnesota (Matt Kalil), and Tampa Bay (Mike Glennon). Denver may add to that number as well (more on that later).
However, any quality reduced has been replaced with an increase in quantity: as it stands now, there are 41 eligible compensatory picks, one shy of the all time record of 42 set in 2016. Of course, only 32 picks may actually be awarded, so several teams will see their comp pick haul reduced (and in the case of Tampa Bay and Atlanta, possibly eliminated). In particular, the 6th round looks to be quite bountiful–12 are currently projected to be awarded in 2018, where 2017 saw only 3 awarded.
As with every year, there will be some picks in which there will be a question as to whether or not they will be awarded. The one pick I am the most concerned and skeptical about by far is the 6th round comp pick projected to the Vikings for Adrian Peterson. The reason I am concerned and skeptical is that he became a UFA in 2017 only by renegotiating his contract. That renegotiation allowed the Vikings to shorten it via a team option on 2017, one that as we know they declined. Because (as usual) the Saints had no hope in gaining 2018 compensatory picks, they had nothing to lose in signing Peterson before May 9. The question is whether this transaction will be to the benefit of the Vikings.
I’ve gone back and forth in my mind on whether to allow Peterson to qualify as a CFA in the program. I’ve decided to allow it so I can illustrate the possibility of what the Vikings would get for Peterson if he does qualify. But please beware that my confidence level is low in that guess, and I could very easily be wrong about that guess.
Names To Watch In Training Camp
For the next few months, the most important thing to watch for with regards to 2017 compensatory picks is if any CFAs fail to make their team’s roster. If any CFA is permanently cut from their team’s roster before Week 10, they will not qualify for the compensatory formula. Using a little intuition, there are some teams that could feasibly improve their standing in 2018 compensatory picks if they cut certain players, and other teams that need to hope that certain teams don’t cut some of their former players.
Last year, the most extreme example of that was the New York Jets cutting Jarvis Jenkins just before the Week 10 deadline. That allowed the team to pick up a 3rd round comp pick for Damon Harrison. The Jets then turned that pick into three players thanks to draft day tradedowns. Those three players were Chad Hansen, Jeremy Clark, and Derrick Jones. If any of those players become contributors, Jets fans can thank Mike Maccagnan’s sharp decision to cut Jenkins at just the right time.
Teams With CFAs Signed
- Buffalo: They loaded up on low-level CFAs to give them a lost/gained difference of -2–five CFAs lost, seven CFAs gained. Five of those seven signed CFAs (Stephen Hauschka, Patrick DiMarco, Andre Holmes, Vladimir Ducasse and Ryan Harris) are currently projected to be valued as 7th rounders in the compensatory formula. If the Bills cut three of those five players before Week 10 (thus getting positive in their ratio), they would pick up a 3rd round comp pick for Stephon Gilmore. If they cut four of the five, they would also pick up a 4th round comp pick for Robert Woods. Only the Bills can decide for themselves if cutting this many veterans is worth picking up draft picks next year. Buffalo could also get some help if former Bills Justin Hunter, Robert Blanton, and EJ Manuel play a high enough number of non-special teams snaps to qualify for the compensatory formula. However, that’s not a hope they should place in high regard since it’s out of their control.
- Pittsburgh: The Steelers signed Coty Sensabaugh to a two-year, $1.3 million dollar deal. If he does not work out for Pittsburgh–similar to how he did not work out for the Los Angeles Rams last year as a CFA acquisition–cutting him would open up a 5th round comp pick for Markus Wheaton. Pittsburgh also should be aware that they signed two players (Justin Huntner and Knile Davis) that are currently projected to not qualify for the 2018 compensatory formula. However, if they sustain a high enough snap count, there is a chance that one of them could cancel out their 5th round comp pick for Lawrence Timmons. Again, that’s a decision only the Steelers can make for themselves.
- NY Giants: They signed 3 CFAs that are currently projected to not qualify. They are Shaun Draughn, Geno Smith, and Valentino Blake. If all three were to qualify, it would cancel out their 4th round comp pick for Johnathan Hankins. However, that strikes me as a very long shot. The only way those long odds might be shortened is if, as mentioned above, the Steelers cut Coty Sensabaugh to reduce the number of CFAs lost for the Giants.
- Minnesota: They could see their current projected 6th round comp pick for Andre Smith demoted to a 7th if he does not play enough snaps for the Bengals. If that happens, then the 7th round comp pick that would open up for Jeff Locke might not make the 32-pick limit. They would likely insure to get some pick for Smith if they cut Case Keenum before Week 10.
Teams With CFAs Lost
- Denver: It could be bad deja vu for the Broncos regarding a comp pick involving Russell Okung. This is because although Ronald Leary is currently projected as a 4th round value, if he logs a very high number of snap counts (as starting offensive linemen tend to do), he could be upgraded to a 3rd rounder. If that happens, it mandates that Leary would cancel out Okung, and the Broncos would see their 3rd round comp pick for Okung demoted to a 7th rounder for Dekoda Watson that may not make the 32-pick limit. To be clear, Leary playing all snaps at a high level is preferable to a late 3rd round pick, and I say that as a Broncos fan. However, my fellow Broncos fans should be aware that their lone comp pick projection has low confidence attached to it.
- Kansas City: Unless Carson Wentz suffers a serious injury, Chiefs fans should be prepared to see their projected 5th round comp pick for Nick Foles demoted to a 6th, as backup quarterbacks log few, if any, snaps. There is also a long shot risk that Gavin Escobar could cancel out Foles if he qualifies, but that would likely require a similar serious injury to Travis Kelce.
- LA Chargers: If either Danny Woodhead or Manti Te’o are cut before Week 10, the Chargers would lose a 7th round comp pick for Te’o. However, that pick is so late that Tom Telesco shouldn’t sweat over it.
An Adjustment To The Program
After reviewing data that I entered from the 2016 season, it is my belief that I erroneously added around 150 more players to the leaguewide portion of the formula than I should have. Once I culled those players, it’s now my guess that 1922 players represented the total of players of which CFAs were judged against for the 2017 compensatory formula. I am using this number to project 2018 compensatory picks for now, but of course the actual number will be different depending on how many players end the 2017 regular season on an active roster or injured reserve.